Although some of the world's most devastating diseases have been successfully controlled by the development of effective vaccines over the past century, progress in developing and using new vaccines has become increasingly delayed by a series of obstacles including limited knowledge about the human immune system, problems with vaccine use and acceptance, and problems with vaccine supply and financing.
Using a P-20 planning grant of approximately $1 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a multidisciplinary team of investigators at Emory University, along with partners at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, Washington, will create a new Exploratory Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Vaccinology (ECIRVE). This program, supported through the National Center for Research Resources, is part of the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, a series of far-reaching initiatives designed to transform the nation's medical research capabilities and speed the movement of research discoveries from the bench to the bedside.
The new exploratory research center will develop solutions to vaccine problems by integrating basic pathogenesis, immunology and infectious diseases with genetics, bioinformatics, behavioral sciences, economics, biomedical engineering and population biology. Using advanced quantitative methods available through the fields of genomics, proteomics, systems biology and computational biology, the team will work on solving complex problems in vaccine development, safety and adverse events, production and supply, acceptance and use.
"Emory already has made an exceptional commitment to vaccine research and has attracted national leaders in immunology, vaccine development, preclinical and clinical vaccine trials, vaccine modeling, epidemiology and vaccine policy," said David Stephens, MD, professor, executive vice-chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the grant. "By combining this existing and outstanding expertise with key leaders and centers in diverse basic and applied scientific disciplines, we can more effectively develop new solutions to vaccine problems."
The new exploratory center will create a multidisciplinary scientific working council of national leaders and center directors to develop novel strategies for problem solving in vaccinology. The scientists will then explore methods of integrating advanced quantitative methods into assessing vaccine immune responses and reactions and into developing better models for vaccine use and economic assessment of vaccines.
The Emory Vaccine Center was established in 1996 with support from Emory University and the Georgia Research Alliance, and represents one of the largest academic vaccine centers in the world. Renowned for its expertise in cellular immunity and immune memory, the Vaccine Center has more than 20 faculty who study AIDS, malaria, meningitis, other global infectious disease threats, and cancer.
"The effective development of vaccines requires a complete scientific understanding of the function of the immune system, utilizing the most advanced tools and technologies available," says Rafi Ahmed, PhD, director of the Vaccine Center and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. "In addition, the complex problems of vaccine development, distribution and acceptance necessitate collaboration among a diverse group of experts in medicine, public health, engineering, bioinformatics and economics.